Switching to minimal shoes can be very liberating and beneficial... if you do it carefully.
Although people may still debate over the benefits of minimal shoes and barefoot running, we remain strong advocates for both. So many customers have told us their foot pain disappeared and their cushy orthotics became unnecessary after switching to our barefoot-like shoes, and it's hard to ignore that kind of response. We constantly hear from curious folks who want to give minimalist footwear a try for a variety of reasons. Some want to treat foot pain naturally, prevent future problems and/or improve their overall health and balance. Others are embracing primal workout techniques like MovNat or Crossfit and find their feet need more freedom of movement. Many people are eager to jump right into it, but there are some things to learn about how to safely transition to minimal shoes that should be understood before ditching your thick shoes.
The biggest mistake people make when transitioning to minimal footwear is transitioning too quickly. If you've spent decades walking in highly cushioned shoes with elevated heels, tapered toe boxes and arch supports, then the muscles, ligaments and tendons in your feet have adapted to work in a specific way. Some of them may have not been working much at all and could be very weak (one of the links between conventional shoes and foot pain). Hastily switching to minimal shoes that engage all of those foot muscles differently can be a shock to your system and may lead to injury. This is true even for experienced runners, who risk stress fractures or other ailments if they skip the process of conditioning their feet before taking on long distances barefoot. Think of it like coming out of a cast after healing from a broken leg and trying to run a marathon the next day—not a good idea! Getting hurt is exactly the opposite of what you're trying to do with minimal footwear, but taking your time to build up those intricate muscles properly can safely bring you to the benefits of natural foot health. If you're like most of our customers then you may never want to wear conventional shoes again!
So how do you safely transition to minimal shoes? The process differs depending on whether you want to wear minimal shoes casually or for running... or both. For that, we'll share the advice of some experts in the field.
But first, our disclaimer:
Remember that we are shoemakers, not doctors. While we're happy to relay this information from medical professionals, we are not qualified to give medical advice and we make no medical claims or guarantees about results. Softstar is not responsible for any injuries that may occur by following the tips below.
If your goal is to wear minimal shoes as part of your daily routine, which consists primarily of walking, standing and sitting, then podiatrist and Correct Toes inventor Dr. Ray McClanahan recommends this two-month plan for a healthy transition:
Basically, you want to start by spending only one hour each day wearing your new shoes or walking barefoot. Each week you increase this time by one hour until you reach the 8-hour mark at the end of two months. At that point, most people should be able to fully switch to minimal shoes without harm. Some people may be able to progress faster, especially those who already spend time barefoot, but it is recommended to err on the side of caution. If you feel pain then it may be wise to slow down your transition time. You have a whole life of healthy feet ahead of you, so don't rush it!
If you're trying to treat foot pain, then incorporating Correct Toes into your transition may help with the process. We're big fans of these silicone foot spacers, which treat a wide range of foot conditions by gradually restoring feet that have been malformed by conventional shoes. We're proud to sell these on our website:
Looking for more athletic endeavors? Physical therapist and barefoot running guru Michael Sandler has a bestselling book on the subject, appropriately titled Barefoot Running. It's full of great advice for making the transition, including tips to improve your running form. This is important since you'll be changing not only your shoes, but also your gait as you will likely switch from a heel strike to a forefoot strike. For your feet, here's what Michael recommends:
It is worth noting that Michael also recommends starting fully barefoot or in minimal shoes, like our Adult Dash RunAmoc, to receive maximum feedback from your feet (as opposed to wearing "transitional" shoes with moderate cushioning) because doing so can help your body respond and achieve the lightest stride. For more tips, visit his website RunBare.
"Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!! I have purchased over 8 pair of 'minimalist' shoes in the past 3 years...none of them felt like walking barefoot to me......until now. Your leather is soft your soles are flat and my foot is relaxed!!!"
"My entire experience with Softstar has been nothing short of an amazing experience from beginning to end. Will not buy any other shoes...my feet no longer hurt at all."
"This shoe is exactly what you would hope it to be. High quality leather and workmanship in a simple, natural stance running shoes made of all natural materials. Glad I found them."
"I've never had shoes that have fit as well as these or received as many compliments… I wish I had found them sooner!"
"There are no other shoes like Softstar - strong, comfortable, pretty - the best choice of minimal shoes one can get. Thank you for making our lives easier and wonderful!"
"I am loving these shoes! They are just lovely to have on the feet. And I am not easily impressed... There's nothing on the market that I know of that allows full toe splay! To me, it's a beautiful thing to let the toes move with absolute freedom in the shoe. I cannot do that with ANY OTHER of the barefoot shoes."
"I spent SO MANY years searching for a shoe to fit my feet. At last, you have given me such a shoe! I am convinced that had I met this shoe 30 years ago, I would not have the deformed feet I have now, nor would I have had surgery done on one of them. Abundant thanks for this design that honors my feet."
"These shoes are absolute perfection… The toe box finally allows my pinky toe and big toe to splay naturally and has taken away all previous foot pain… My feet will accept nothing less now."
"Finally something I will wear to work that is truly foot shaped… I usually take my shoes off as soon as I arrive home. I was so comfortable in these that I didn't think about it, and I left them on for hours into the evening."
"These are fantastic. Softstar showed themselves as the best minimal shoe company on the market with these. Functionally, they are the best fitting shoes I own, and they are the most stylish."
"Blown away. These should be the standard. I work at a physio clinic and see multiple people come in with foot pain (bunions, flat feet, plantar fasciitis) and it's mostly because of the effects of improper footwear over time... These shoes are the perfect solution."
"These are the best shoes I've ever owned. FINALLY A TOE BOX SHAPED LIKE A HEALTHY FOOT… I can wear my toe separators in these without any squishing or pressure against the sides of the shoe. Finally, finally, finally... someone prioritized function over form in creating a shoe that feels great to wear."